Call for crackdown on fat cat council salaries

Lothian Buses and Transport for Edinburgh board.''finance director Norman Strachan.
Lothian Buses and Transport for Edinburgh board.''finance director Norman Strachan.
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Around 220 people employed by Scottish local authorities or their arm’s-length bodies take home salaries of over £100,000 per year, a new survey has disclosed.

Councils last night faced calls to crack down on fat cat salaries at a time when council tax is set to rise.

Research carried out by the Taxpayers’ Alliance found that the council will most employees was North Lanarkshire with 18 employees paid more than £100,000 in 2016/17.

The biggest remuneration package paid out over this period was the £563,862 paid to the former finance director of Lothian Buses Norman Strachan.

Mr Strachan’s package included his £154,804 salary, a bonus of £46,441 plus a golden handshake of £150,000 when he left in January last year.

The total, which was the third highest in the UK, included an employer pension contribution – a category of remuneration that was included by the Taxpayers’ Alliance when making its calculations.

Lothian Buses is owned by Edinburgh City Council. Another Lothian Buses executive – the company’s former engineering director, Bill Devlin, also made the UK top 10 for the highest remunerated employees. He was the eighth highest paid on £430,690 – a figure that also included a £150,000 pay off.

According to the Taxpayers’ Alliance, there were 222 employees of councils or their arm’s length bodies earned more than £100,000 - a reduction of 10 since the previous year’s survey. They included 17 linked to Glasgow City Council.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said two of the 17 were not publicly funded. A spokesman said they were managers at SEC Ltd and were employed by a private company.

Other golden goodbyes of more than £100,000 in Scotland include £141,155 to East Dunbartonshire Council finance and shared services director Ian Black and £132,721 to East Ayrshire head of democratic services Bill Walkinshaw.

There were 16 employees associated with Edinburgh City Council taking home more than £100,000. However only five were directly employed with the council. The remaining 11 were with arm’s length bodies.

Scottish Conservative local government spokesman Alexander Stewart said: “Councils need the best people and there will be occasions where that requires a salary in excess of £100,000. However, it seems this level of payment is almost commonplace at the top of some local authorities. We constantly hear from councils how tight they are for cash.

“Perhaps clamping down on excessive salaries and golden goodbyes would be a good place to start when it comes to money saving.”

TaxPayers’ Alliance chief executive John O’Connell said: “It’s good news for taxpayers that the number of very high earners is falling, but there are still far too many astronomical pay-offs for those leaving employment.”

A spokesperson for North Lanarkshire Council said: “The figures used clearly include staff leaving the organisation who have paid into a pension scheme throughout their working lives and who are entitled to pension payments. These payments are not set by the council.”

Edinburgh City Council said its salaries were paid at an “appropriate rate”.

Glasgow City Council said its spending on executive pay had fallen.